Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is a form of therapy that was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder but has since been found to be effective in treating a number of conditions including substance use disorders, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal behavior. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2963469/]
DBT is essentially a package that uses selected cognitive and behavioral therapeutic techniques. DBT developed specifically to meet the challenges of borderline personality disorder. The psychologist who developed DBT, Marsha Linehan, found that borderline personality disorder made patients especially sensitive to criticism and emotional distress. As a result, they felt alienated by established cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which emphasizes changing thoughts and behaviors. Patients who felt criticized or invalidated were more likely to drop out of therapy.
What primarily distinguishes DBT from CBT is that DBT emphasizes acceptance of challenging emotions as part of the process and helps clients better tolerate that emotional distress. Whereas a therapist using CBT might directly challenge a client’s feelings as resulting from a cognitive distortion, a DBT therapist might be willing to validate those feelings and focus on productive ways to handle them.
How does DBT work?
Standard DBT treatment consists of one hour of individual therapy per week and one and a half to two and a half hours of group skills training per week. DBT therapists also consult with each other on how to provide the best treatment.
DBT is an emotion-focused treatment that relies on the assumption that biology influences how all of us experience emotions. People who are especially sensitive to strong emotions are often not taught as children how to manage their emotional reactions. Therefore, a major component of DBT is teaching people how to recognize, understand, and regulate their emotions. It’s especially important for therapists to teach clients how to manage strong or overwhelming emotions.
Mindfulness is another important skill taught as part of DBT. Mindfulness has two primary functions. One is that it improves distress tolerance. Rather than trying to avoid or suppress unpleasant emotions, you learn to accept them. Second, mindfulness keeps you focused on what’s happening at the moment. Instead of getting lost in inferences and worries, mindfulness allows you to be present and deal with situations as they are.
Finally, DBT group work focuses on interpersonal effectiveness. People who struggle with borderline personality disorder often misinterpret the motivations of others and react inappropriately. Therefore, practicing how to interact with others in the face of strong emotions is a valuable skill for anyone with borderline personality disorder. However, interpersonal effectiveness is an important skill for everyone. Better interpersonal skills strengthen relationships and reduce friction. Practicing these skills in the safe environment of group therapy is a great way to improve.
At Fort, we offer a safe, nurturing, and healing space for men and women to find recovery from the multifaceted disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring each client to face their challenges, discover the root of their problems, and reclaim their lives. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call us today at 817-381-9741 or contact us through our admissions page.